Authority figures in comedy  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
police comedy, list of stock characters, ridicule, derision

A recurring theme in the literary, theatrical and film tradition of comedy is the use of stock characters representing authority figures, designed to poke fun at officialdom by showing that its members are not immune to entanglement in the ridiculous. This is an old tradition, well illustrated in works such as Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Voltaire's Candide.

This theme was commonly used by British comedy troupe, Monty Python. In their sketches, a "common comedic device was for authority figures (such as military officers, police, judges, Conservative politicians, BBC news announcers and even God) to take their characters to extremes by suddenly spouting complete nonsense".

Examples include:

Some television shows, such as South Park and The Simpsons, have a collection of characters that represent all of the main groups of authority figures, and each portray such figures as humorously flawed. Indeed, each show has a resident police officer - Officer Barbrady and Chief Clancy Wiggum, respectively - portrayed as an incompetent and bumbling idiot. The shows also mockingly portray their resident religious leader - Priest Maxi in South Park and Reverend Timothy Lovejoy in the Simpsons. The shows also include, with slightly different characteristics, the flawed exercise of authority by parents, teachers, school principals, mayors, and occasionally of soldiers and politicians.

Examples can also be found in the art of the Russian joke.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Authority figures in comedy" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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